Mood swings are a normal part of eating disorder recovery, yet they may still concern those experiencing them. Individuals in recovery dealing with mood swings need to know they are not alone. These emotions are part of the recovery process, and there are ways to manage emotional reactions. This blog post will discuss the causes of mood swings during recovery and coping mechanisms to minimize their impact.
Causes of Mood Swings During Eating Disorder Recovery
During recovery, it is common to experience many emotions, ranging from anger or sadness to happiness and even guilt at being happy.
Adjusting your lifestyle, food, and medication can all impact your mood and emotional reactions. Then, hormonal changes in the body can affect them even further. Recovery is a process that requires patience and understanding by the individual in recovery and those surrounding them (1).
In addition, anxiety is often a comorbidity with eating disorders, and recovery may lead to increased feelings of anxiety or being overwhelmed, leading to changes in mood (1).
Signs a Mood Swing May Be a More Serious Mental Health Issue
Individuals in recovery should be concerned about mood swings if they are increasing in intensity and impacting their day-to-day life. Signs that a mood swing indicates a more significant problem may be difficulty sleeping; losing interest in previously enjoyable activities; isolation from friends, loved ones, and activities; and hopelessness.
Significant mood swings can sometimes indicate an underlying mental health issue such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Common signs that a mental health issue may be causing mood swings include changes in appetite, difficulty sleeping, loss of interest in activities, and feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. If you or someone close to you is experiencing intense mood swings impacting daily life, seeking advice from a healthcare professional is crucial.
Ways to Minimize the Impact of Mood Swings During Recovery
There are many emotional ups and downs during eating disorder recovery, and it is possible to get discouraged (2). The best way to minimize mood swings is to prevent some of the factors which might cause them in the first place, for example, by ensuring a regular sleep schedule and getting adequate rest. Staying hydrated and following a required dietary plan are also significant steps. It is essential to avoid using drugs and alcohol, as they may make mood swings worse.
Additionally, individuals may find practicing self-care techniques such as yoga or meditation helpful in reducing stress and anxiety. Seeking support from others who have experienced or are experiencing the recovery process may also help. And it’s crucial to seek the help of a therapist or treatment team, particularly if the mood swings are severe.
How to Tell If Mood Swings Are Normal or Not?
Mood swings are part of the regular emotional ups and downs associated with recovery, but for some, mood swings are an indicator of something more serious.
Increased feelings of being overwhelmed, irritable, or having difficulty concentrating, or physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and muscular tension leading to discomfort, may all indicate a more serious mental health issue.
If you are concerned about worsening mood swings or any symptoms listed, talk with your primary care provider or treatment team to discuss options. When mood swings significantly impact individuals, they may use medications such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) (3). Healthcare professionals can prescribe these medications for a short time to manage emotions which may negatively impact the recovery process.
Ways to Stay Positive During Recovery When Experiencing Mood Swings
There are ways to manage these mood swings, including caring for physical and mental health. Engaging in safe levels of physical exercise can help alleviate mood swings. Finding ways to manage stress and activities which worsen stress and anxiety can assist in coping. Activities such as meditation, yoga, and practicing mindfulness or journaling can help individuals cope and release feelings associated with mood swings.
Connecting with friends and family for social support is another critical factor in managing mood swings during recovery. And seeking the help of your primary care provider, mental health provider, or treatment team is essential if feelings are worsening. Remember, your treatment team is there to help you manage the ups and downs of recovery.
Recovery can be a lengthy and challenging process that results in many positive and negative feelings. Treatment centers such as Shoreline help individuals working through recovery. You can contact us at 562-434-6007 for information regarding treatment options.
- Eating Disorder Hope. (2023, April 25). 4 Important Milestones to be Aware of in Anorexia Recovery. https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/important-milestones-aware-anorexia-recovery
- Gambrel, A.E. (2011, November 4). Dealing with the Emotions of Anorexia Nervosa Recovery. Healthy Place. https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2011/11/eating-disorder-recovery-dealing-with-the-emotions.
- Tracy, N. (2022, January 12). Medications for Eating Disorders. Healthy Place. https://www.healthyplace.com/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-overview/medications-for-eating-disorders.
Kim English is a Nursing Professor and has been teaching nurses at the undergraduate and postgraduate level since 2002. Kim has supported a family member through the lived experience of eating disorders and works to advocate for support in rural areas.